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Bowel cancer screening rates stagnate

According to the latest AIHW National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) Monitoring Report 2024, there was a further decline in Program participation to 40% (2021: 40.9%).

6 million Australians aged 50-74 were invited to participate in the Program, yet 6-in-10 did not return their free bowel cancer screening test, despite several multi-million-dollar National Bowel Cancer Screening Program advertising campaigns to increase Program participation.

Bowel Cancer Australia CEO, Julien Wiggins said, “This is the second consecutive year of declining NBCSP participation rates since 2020, which is of concern, given the Program’s life-saving potential as 99% of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated when detected early.

In 2022, 64,932 (5.7%) participants received a positive result, meaning blood was detected in the poo sample that is non-visible to the naked eye and required further investigation via colonoscopy.

However, only 13.5% were recorded as having received a colonoscopy within the recommended 30-day timeframe, down from 15.6% in 2021. Participants waited between 133 days and 197 days, depending on where they lived (2021: 119-235 days).

“The opportunity for early detection is lost if a positive screening result is not promptly followed by a colonoscopy,” Mr Wiggins added.

Bowel Cancer Australia also welcomed another milestone in its 6-year campaign, with the eligible screening age for the NBCSP being lowered from 50 to 45.

From 1 July 2024 eligible people aged 45-49 can opt-in and request their first bowel cancer screening test be mailed to them. The next test will automatically be mailed every 2 years after their last screening test is completed.

Each year over 15,300 Australians are diagnosed with bowel cancer, with 1 in 9 new bowel cancer cases occurring in people under age 50.

Bowel cancer is Australia’s second deadliest cancer, claiming over 5,300 lives each year.

Australasian Pharmacy
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